The schools

Asma Assad - 9 year old student from East Aleppo

My name is Asma Assad.

My friends and I used to wake up and go to school at 7 am and come back in the afternoon. We went there always. We were happy at school.

But one day, the bell suddenly rang and never stopped, so we went down to the schoolyard to look what was going on. Seconds later the school was leveled by bombs dropped by a plane. Students were injured and many were killed directly at the schoolyard. Only a couple of girls and I are still alive. Those who were still alive but injured was taken to the hospital. The teachers went to check them but new bombs was dropped and shatter and shrapnel hurt them.

The teachers closed the school after this, but they reopened in a new location after a week.

We started school again. But so many in my class were missing.

Ali Ghazal, teacher in East Aleppo

Before the revolution I was a French language teacher in a school close to the old medieval castle in Aleppo. When the revolution came, some of the teachers who were pro-Assad moved to areas where regime was in control, and my old school was soon bombed.

Because I stood up against the dictator, I was wanted by the regime and therefore had to start working in field schools. Even though teaching now is very hard because of the frequent bombings, it has many advantages from how it was before.

Before the revolution, we used to see schools as military bases where the directors behaved as generals. Horrible punishments were applied, such as using the cane to beat students and other brutal practises that doesn’t belong in schools at all. Now, in the schools in the liberated areas, we have at last get rid of these punishments. They are totally forbidden and it makes me happy and proud every day. One more important thing that makes me feel proud of my field schools is that all the pictures of al-Assads family and their military commanders are ripped out from the books. Students teaching material is now checked to not have anything about al-Assad family or his regime. Before, it was like being in a prison to have to teach the students about the greatness of the dictator every day in class. Now I feel free, as teachers and students should feel.

To understand the brutality of the regime, we have to see the pattern of how al-Assad reacts to people who try to disobey him. When the regime loses a town or the people in a city dare to stand against Bashar al-Assad, the regime try to destroy everything that could grow strong and free in that area. Aleppo is a clear example of this. The regime is using barrel bombs to kill civilians each and every day. In the hunt for the regime to cause the biggest loss of civilians, they tend to target marketplaces, homes and medical facilities. And of course, the schools.

Many are the students and children who have been killed in their classrooms, or on their way to school or back home. One of the worst massacre against the kids was in Ein Jaloot. That day, kids were having an exhibition. By the help of their teachers, they had prepared an exhibition to show the current situation through paintings to encourage their talent. Some kids were really talented and some paintings were really good. Kids were happy preparing for that exhibition. But as if on cue, two aircrafts bombarded the schoolyard using missiles. The first one fell close to the school, while the second one was a direct hit. Targeting the school was very clear. They targeted kids on the day of the exhibition where they were showing drawings about the massacres committed by this regime. Sadly, more than 40 kids were killed that day, in addition to 2 teachers: Bahsar and Nasr. Now those kids and the teachers are in a higher place, they went from being in classrooms to being in Heaven. I have to think like this to manage to go on.

After that massacre, I met one of the kids who survived the attack. His name is Tawfik and he is 10 years old from al Sukkary area. He is still recovering from the massacre, but he is traumatized after what he witnessed. When I met him he told me: “Suddenly my friends was ripped in pieces and scattered on top of me. I was feeling nothing around me, I only saw blood.”

Now Tawfik, and many other kids, never go to school. They are too afraid. And this is the plan of the regime. These bombings of schools aren’t only a disaster for the families who are losing their youngest, but also for the whole education system and the future for our liberated areas. Because parents have, for understandable reasons, stopped sending their children to school. We teachers try to practice our profession in basements or other shelters who are less dangerous, but the regime are really furious in targeting us whenever they get information about our hidden schools.

They try to destroy every hope for a future. And as brutal as ever, Assad aims at our children.